Tag Archives: children

Media Literacy: Teaching Kids to Read Advertising

The New York Times is reporting on a new government website designed to teach advertising literacy to kids in grades 5 and 6:

Teaching Youngsters How to Read Advertising: “A federal agency is undertaking an effort to school youngsters in the ways of Madison Avenue.

The Web site, Admongo.gov, will include several such ads in an effort to teach children to think through what an advertiser is trying to get them to do. A poster … will be distributed in classrooms to encourage children to visit the site.

The initiative seeks to educate children in grades four through six — tweens, in the parlance of marketing — about how advertising works so they can make better, more informed choices when they shop or when they ask parents to shop on their behalf.

(via NYTimes.com.)

A quick look at the site – Admongo.gov – shows that the main section consists of a Flash game – very much like other Flash games that my kid (and probably yours) plays. There are also separate sections, accessed through links in the top left, for parents and teachers.

Over the coming weeks, I hope to undertake a thorough exploration of this site to see just what the Federal Trade Commission and its partner in this project, Scholastic, think our kids need to know to be “ad literate.”

For starters, I’d like to know what they have to say about the above sample ad – used as an illustration in the New York Times article and apparently drawn from a set of sample ads provided by the site. Looking just at the text on this made-up ad, I would imagine that the ideas of a “Next Big Thing” and an “eco-flag” might be things they discuss. But what struck me most forcibly about this ad was its use of the sexualization that has become such a problem in ads aimed at children. We will see if this is an issue they address – if not, I will have some serious issues to raise with Admongo.gov and the Federal Trade Commission.

I would love input from other people about the site – if you check it out, be sure to let me know what you think.

Kids and Kommercialism – The Boob Tube, pt 1

I wanted to return to the topic of “kids and kommercialism” that I discussed in a number of earlier posts (cf, hereherehere), and in particular to talk a bit more about some ways of addressing problems associated with the pervasive marketing aimed at kids.

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Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

It’s a bit OT, but who, come on, who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss – and today is his birthday! So, Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss – and thank you for all the pleasure you’ve given us over the years.

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Kids and Kommercialism – Infants and TV

TV-watching tots miss out on vital chat – health – 01 June 2009 – New Scientist

A study being reported on in New Scientist looks at the way that TV viewing interferes with the exposure to the human voice and human words necessary for infants’ proper development. When the TV is on, infants vocalise less and hear fewer words from nearby adults who are presumably too absorbed in watching TV to interact properly with the babies.

Even TV programming designed for infants – like various baby DVDs designed to stimulate mental activity or promote parent-child interaction – interfered with development. A 2007 study showed that infants who watched such programs scored lower on tests of language development than infants who didn’t watch such programs.

What is it about that Lowe’s ad?

Searches on some combination of terms referring to the Lowe’s “calming green” ad featuring Valspar paint continue to be a major source of visits to this blog (to the post on “Kids and Kommercialism IV” in which I discuss the ad), and I can’t for the life of me figure out what it is about this ad that has everyone so excited.

It’s an okay ad – though only because of that “calming green” moment, which makes it memorable and effective – but it isn’t close to being the best or most interesting ad on TV at the moment. Just off the top of my head, the competing Honda Insight and Prius ads seem much more appealing. So what is it about that Lowe’s ad?

I have this fantasy that all these searches for information on the ad are being conducted by harried parents around the country, one step away from infanticide, who are leaping at the promise of a paint that will get their kids to sit down, shut up and do their homework. They weren’t able to convince the doctor to put the kids on Ritalin, so this is their last hope. Continue reading

Spectacular Times

The Spectacular Times is a series of pamphlets written/produced by Larry Law in the late 1970s/early 1980s that took the often abstruse ideas of a group of French radicals called “situationists” and explored them in concrete ways and easy(er) to understand language. They are generally considered to be one of the most accessible introductions to situationist ideas available.

The situationists were a loose group of (mostly) French activists and intellectuals, very active in the events of May 1968, who tried to formulate a revolutionary theory applicable to daily life (speaking very loosely here) under what we would now term postmodernism. [As usual, see Wikipedia for a more extended introduction.]

While interest in the situationists themselves is fairly limited – confined mostly to radicals of various anarchist tendencies and academics in the humanities – many of the ideas put forth by the situationists have been much more widely influential, particularly their exploration of the politics of “everyday life” and their critique of a consumer-oriented, mass-mediated social order. Their analysis of these topics is directly applicable to many of issues raised in my discussion of “kids and kommercialism.” Continue reading

Kids and Kommercialism V

Debunking – or, Read the Small Print

What I am going to call “debunking” is related to “critical media literacy,” though more basic and fact-oriented, less analytical. It is also particularly useful for working with kids on the issue of junk food – an issue which was highlighted in earlier posts that looked into the connections of fast food to obesity

By “debunking,” I mean reading and making sense of the small print, most often perhaps the small print of ingredient lists on food items, so it might be termed “label literacy” as well.  Sometimes, it applies more literally to the small print – those quick disclaimers that appear in TV ads or the small print of advertisements in magazines or of packaging for non-food items.

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Kids and Kommercialism IV

lit•er•a•cy |ˈlitərəsē; ˈlitrə-| – noun – the ability to read and write; competence or knowledge in a specified area

Critical Media Literacy

In a previous incarnation, I taught for a course on “gender and popular culture.” The first assignment given to the students was to visit the Toys R Us store in the local mall and write a short analysis of what they saw in terms of gender issues. This was generally a real eye-opener for the students, who were shocked and dismayed by what they observed. While they were for the most part familiar with issues of gender discourse and sexism in TV and movies (this was a university course), they were often stunned at how extensive it was, all-pervasive even, in children’s lives – in everyday stuff like toy packages, the styling of kids’ bicycles and even the layout of the store.

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Kids and Kommercialism III

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

For more info on the topic of kids and kommercialism, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is an excellent starting place. They address topics like materialism and consumerism, sexualization, the commercializing of play, violence, obesity and body image. They also discuss some of the range of insidious marketing ploys – under the great title “ad creep” – that Schor addresses in her book. Continue reading

Kids and Kommercialism II

To continue…

Here are some factoids on children and television and advertising: Continue reading

Kids and Kommercialism

Okay – I love that song. It’s catchy, and witty.  And I can totally relate – I loved eating a huge bowl (or two, or three) of cereal while watching cartoons on Saturday morning.  My favorite breakfast cereal, Life (Mikey likes it), doesn’t appear to be in their list, and the TV shows seem to be those of someone a bit younger than me (though a couple of my faves, like “Fat Albert,” are still there), but, you know – great song.

I was thinking about it when I read a review of

Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture

According to author Juliet B. Schor, (the review states) the average 10-year-old has memorized about 400 brands, the average kindergartner can identify some 300 logos and from as early as age two kids are ‘bonded to brands.’ Continue reading